Alberta Nutrition Report Card focus of Wednesday Food at School event at LCI

By Garrett Simmons

Lethbridge School District No. 51

Communications Officer

Dr. Kim Raine asked a room full of educators how they felt about a C grade.

A professor and associate dean (research) in the Public School of Health at the University of Alberta, Raine presented the results of the 2017 Alberta Nutrition Card on Food Environments for Children and Youth. The result – a C.

Wednesday’s event at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute – Food at School: How do we measure up?, brought southern Alberta educators together for a resource fair, networking, a panel discussion and a presentation from Raine concerning the 2017 report. 

“We can definitely do better,” said Raine about the results, as she said more Canadians die each year due to dietary risks than cancer. “We now live in an environment where food is available 24 hours a day. The environment around food for the last 30 years has changed significantly. It really is an important time for us to think about the issues surrounding nutrition.”

Raine added Alberta, for its part, has made progress on the issue of child obesity rates, which have declined from 2004-2105 among children age 2-11. Rates have actually slightly increased among those age 12-17.

Reasons for that can be found within the 2017 nutrition report, she added, as the document focused on 36 indicators, with built-in benchmarks, many of which were not met.

As Raine delivered major highlights from the report, she revealed a grade of D was handed out in the area of physical environment for food. Schools scored a C+, as Raine credited Districts such as Lethbridge School District No. 51, which has a Healthy Nutritional Choices policy in place. Across the province, however, Raine added schools need to do a better job providing healthy beverages in vending machines, for example.

Recreational facilities and food stories near schools both scored a D in the report, in terms of providing healthy food choices. Raine added identical D grades were handed out in four other areas, as researchers studied the communication environment surrounding healthy food choices, restrictions of marketing unhealthy food, the food skills being taught to children in schools and the affordability of healthy food.

“It’s absolutely impossible to buy healthy food if you are on social assistance,” said Raine, as she pulled more data from the report.

Schools did receive a C+ for subsidized fruit and vegetable subscription programs, while the Government of Alberta’s School Nutrition Program pilot project helped earn a B grade in the political environment category in the report.

Raine added schools could do more to encourage students to make wise choices, as she gave an example of schools who have raised prices on unhealthy drinks in their vending machines, and dropped prices on healthy beverages.

Schools could also lobby their communities to decrease the number of fast-food outlets within 500 metres of schools, she added, while recreation centres could also be encouraged to offer healthy choices in their facilities.

The nutrition report, which has four more years of funding, hopes to build in more local data collection, to help schools collect local data to pass on to politicians in their respective communities.

Date posted: Nov. 23, 2107